Let’s call a spade a spade and address that we live in an unforgiving society. There are certain rules that we better not break if we’re supposed to exist in this circle. But what if we break them? What if men enter the kitchen and women go to factories, working till they’re exhausted to death? And most importantly, what if people dare to go beyond the ‘normal’ and fall in love?
Together, writers Shelly Chopra Dhar (also the director) and Ghazal Dhaliwal pen a story which has its heart in the right place. They challenge the norms of the society and even those of the industry and create a homosexual leading character. And so, we meet Sweety (Sonam Kapoor Ahuja), who has just got done with her BA and her father, Balbir Chaudhary (Anil Kapoor) wants to get her married to a decent boy. Sweety is timid and her brother (Babloo, player by Abhishek Duhan) keeps telling her that she has a beemari. Though he never outs her secret, until very later into the film, he never shows any kind of love towards her, and the family seems very okay with it. Enter Sahil Mirza (Rajkummar Rao) who falls in love with Sweety the moment he sees her, but soon, comes face to face with her ‘secret’, becomes a friend and takes it upon himself to ‘normalise’ this homosexual relationship that Sweety is in (with Kuhu, played by Regina Cassandra).
Bringing the conversation about convention to mainstream Hindi Cinema was of utmost importance and I salute Shelly Chopra Dhar for doing this. It takes courage to take this leap of faith, especially when it’s your first film. But, Dhar plays safe. She and Dhaliwal touch upon homosexuality and the problems people face in our country, but never probe into the core emotional. We are told what Sweety has been through, while growing up and how she confined her life to her diary, but it’s all in brief, like a synopsis. While the heart is huge and exactly where it should be, the execution needed deeper emotional understanding, or at least explanation. The love story between Sweety and Kuhu is fresh and beautiful, but at no point does it become daring. It goes out of the box, but lurks only around it.
But the performances are terrific. I can’t seem to put my hand on a single character that Rajkummar Rao cannot deliver with! With his caliber, he makes sure that he doesn’t make Sahil look like a sidekick, or a loser. He understands the deeper nuances of not just his character, who loves so immensely, but also of his co-character, Sweety and makes sure that even in the scenes with Sonam Kapoor Ahuja, he holds on to both, his effortlessness and her poise.
Anil Kapoor plays Sweety’s father. He is the owner of Chaudhary Garments and is often referred to as the Ambani of Moga. Anil Kapoor is a fine actor, who just keeps getting better every passing second. Though he’s made questionable film choices in the recent past (Race 3) but in Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga, he’s absolutely terrific and such a delight to watch! Like Kapoor, even Juhi Chawla proves, get again, that talent always sustains! She’s so fine to look at and perform. She gets into the skin of Chatro, a flawed actor and a perfect chef, with utmost sincerity.
Seema Pahwa, Brijendra Kala, Regina Cassandra and Abhishek Duhan have smaller roles, as the house helps, Sweety’s love interest and her brother respectively, but each one of them shine in their own specific ways, giving way to the fact that no matter how small a part, a good performance can make it very very noticeable.
Before I talk about Sonam Kapoor Ahuja, let me stand up and clap for her, because which other mainstream actor/actress would be willing to play a homosexual character in the wake of the day? I don’t think many would. But, as an actress, she has her limitations. On the surface, you see her playing Sweety really well. She looks the part (great job on her costumes), laughs and blushes like her, talks like her even. But Kapoor Ahuja never peeks into Sweety. We see her in pain, of being rejected and dejected, we see her struggle to get rid of her beemari and to ‘normalise’, but she’s not as convincing as deeply she should’ve been.
Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga is a film we needed now more than ever. And I genuinely am sending the warmest hugs to Chopra Dhar, producer Vidhu Vinod Chopra and to everyone associated with the film. I must say that this is a must watch film for todays parents, specifically. I have friends who are homosexuals and I see them struggle like nothing. It’s a task for them to even maybe go out and buy eggs, conscious of the eyes on them. No matter how many negative connotations the word normalise may have, that’s what we need to do.
All in all, Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga may not be the perfect film, but it sets the ball rolling, begins a conversation and that alone is praiseworthy.